Civilians and individuals who have served in the military are reacting to a recent post on Reddit about German soldiers being allowed to disobey orders that, in their point of view, violate human dignity.
It brings back memories of movies like the Platoon, which starred Charlie Sheen, and A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Demi Moore as the main cast.
In Platoon, the war between good and evil was not just on the battlefield. The war is inside every man, where one’s conscience could be tested to the extreme. Where the line between right and wrong could get blurred by hate, prejudices, vanity, and greed.
A Few Good Men is another tragic story about obeying orders from superiors as if they were gods. It’s the innocent who must pay the costliest price.
Many of the comments in this particular post were enlightening, although reality makes the world doubt if it’s really being practiced.
According to one commenter: “Most militaries have a policy called ‘duty to disobey,’ which states you (as a soldier) must not obey an unlawful order. So if it is illegal or unconstitutional, you have a duty to disobey that order…not sure if it is the Geneva convention, but I remember having that in common with every military I had joint exercises with (UK, US, Germany, Italy, Namibia, Australia, China, and India).
Another individual with military experience as well, responded: “I got out in mid ’07 (USAF), but I remember distinctly having to take this training, via CBT, every year with my other requals. It was always mentioned, and emphasized, do not follow orders that violate Geneva, basic human rights or the Constitution.”
That’s good news to hear. Also, to learn that it’s part of the Geneva Convention as opposed to what is often heard from war movies: Obey first before you complain.
However, another commenter makes us think more deeply.
According to that person: “How does that work in practice? Say your commanding officer orders you to do something. You refuse on the grounds that it’s illegal or unconstitutional. Then you’re discharged for not following orders… And if you attempt to shine a light on the fact that you were discharged for refusing an unlawful order, you’ll be imprisoned for releasing classified information (I. E., the tactical plans of your superiors). If it’s the military that’s giving you an order, how could you expect the military to then protect you for not following the order that the military gave you?”
“Seems like this whole thing is based on the premise that there’s one rogue officer ordering you to do something outside of the scope of what their superiors have dictated. But it’s just as likely that the unlawful order came from up higher, meaning that there’s nowhere to take your complaint.”
Further, a question that many people may ask: Of what significance is the Geneva Convention or any other entity that promulgates this moral principle when the world knows that in the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the very same soldiers who took the oath to disobey orders that violate human dignity have in fact breached it without conscience or shame?